How to Get a Reply From a Cold Email
Cold emails are extremely difficult to compose and even harder to get a response from. The key is to craft a short, memorable letter that appeals to the recipient’s self-interest. A standard form letter rarely elicits a response, and if it does, it results in a surface conversation that will never evolve beyond a shallow relationship. We’ve sent many a cold email in our time, and we have learned how to compose an artful, personalized email that more often than not earns a response. Scroll through to see how we do it.
According to a recent study, people are more likely to read emails when they have subject lines that either create curiosity or offer utility. People are often tempted to open an email if its subject line is entertaining or piques their curiosity. An example of this would be “Your book kept me up all night.” However, if someone has a particularly cramped schedule, the best way to get their attention is by providing utility. For example, “I can help increase your readership” is a great way to get the attention of a journalist. Know your audience and draft a subject line that best suits their goal and workload. If you email a PR rep, talk about how you can help increase their client’s exposure. If you’re emailing a business leader, mention how you how you can drive ROI. In any case, think about what motivates the person you’re writing to, and try to offer them something that speaks to that.
You want it to seem like you’ve done this before. Saying something like, “Hi Susan—I hope this email finds you well,” is simple and polite, but it puts you on more of an equal footing with your email recipient than an overly formal introduction would. You don’t want to appear cocky, but exhibiting confidence is key. Your email recipient needs to know that you believe you are worth their time.
The best way to offer value to someone is to research their background and understand what motivates them. For example, if you’re writing to a journalist in the hopes of getting exposure your business or for yourself, talk about that journalist’s recent work. Say something like: “I saw your recent post on work-life balance performed exceptionally well. I recently wrote an article about women in the workplace that I know your readers would like. I’d be happy to share it with your site, as I think it would perform equally as well as your last article on the subject.” In this way, you’re letter your email’s recipient know that you’re aware of their work, you appreciate it, and you have a way to further improve what they care about (in this case, that’s page views).
It’s also helpful to point out a commonality between yourself and the person you're emailing. A quick glance at their LinkedIn profile can tell you if they went to the same school as you or if they have some of the same interests. Highlighting similarities will increase the chance of response.
Twenty-one-year-old entrepreneur Sar Haribhakti has a recurring column on The Huffington Post. He got this opportunity by cold-emailing Arianna Huffington and getting a response from the digital media queen within hours. He explains how he approaches cold emails in one of his recent articles titled "Warm Up Those Emails": "People don’t care about your name or where you came from unless you are Warren Buffet or Seth Godin. But they do care about how you can add value to them." Forbes columnist Cheryl Conner elaborates on Haribhakti’s advice: "By helping people in even the smallest of ways, you sow the seeds for a genuine relationship with someone that over time (and often in a surprisingly short time) yields fruit in that the other individual will also be inclined to do their best in helping you achieve your own goals as well."
Don’t overwhelm the person you’re emailing with an overly robust email signature. Your name, title, phone number, and personal website or company website is often enough. If you feel like including social media links is important, edit yours down to one or two. Don’t include half a dozen links.
The last thing you want is to get the person's name wrong. As obvious as this sounds, when you’re cold-emailing more than one person in a short period of time, this is much easier to do than you’d expect. Always proofread your emails and, if you can, ask a friend to copy-edit for you. It’s always best to have a fresh set of eyes on the email. If you don’t want to show it to anyone else, we suggest writing the email, waiting a few hours, and then re-reading before you hit send.
Be pleasantly persistent. One email is rarely enough to elicit a response. You need to stick in the mind of the person you are trying to reach without coming off as a pest. Often, people are intrigued by your email, but it drifts to the bottom of their to do list without a friendly reminder.
You want your reader to walk away from your email with a fond memory and a clear idea of what you are asking for. Your recipient should be able to walk away from your email knowing the following: Who is emailing me and why? What do they want? How long is their ask going to take? If they can associate your name with an interesting fact they learned from your email or a belief that you can offer something of value to them now or in the future, you’ll have a much greater likelihood of receiving a response.
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